Image credit: Inc.com

We recently received an invitation to apply to a startup pitch competition called SXSW V2Venture taking place on July 16th in Las Vegas, Nevada. The competition seems very interesting and the judging panel is quite impressive. The application fee is $100.

This begs the question: should incubator, angel investors, and VC firms charge application fees? What would be the obvious and not obvious pros and cons of such a policy? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

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Image Source: Afritorial.com

Anyone who’s followed my thoughts would have deduced by now that I’m extremely passionate about GLOBAL innovation, and I vehemently disagree with insinuations that there’s a region in the world where people are particularly more innovative than others.

However, I do think that there are regions in the world where the social, economic, and legal infrastructures are more favorable towards fostering ideas and measuring the value of their intellectual property. Taking those latter points into consideration, the “Mecca” for such a place is the United States of America, where we are consistently within the top 3 patent holders, partly due to our somewhat lax patent laws, and many of the greatest companies in the world have their roots here. But let’s also keep in mind that, many of the founders of those companies immigrated from other regions of the world, many of them third world or developing countries.

That said, I’d like to introduce to you, if you’re still unfamiliar with it, the concept of “Reverse Innovation” which Vijay Govindajaran, Professor of International Business at Tuft School of Business at Dartmouth College, discusses in his book with Chris Trimble “Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere“. The strong point Mr. Govindajaran makes is that “Innovation is no longer the exclusive domain of the Silicon Valley elite”, that there’s a fundamental shift on the “dynamics of global innovation”. Simply put, the rest of the world is innovating and those ideas are impacting the West, instead of the way around.

Traditionally, innovation has been considered a Western asset to be imported by other countries, especially developing countries. However, this is increasingly changing – “no longer will innovations travel the globe in only one direction, from developed to developing nations” it reads. Professor Govindajaran provides a great example of a world-leading, portable, easy-to-use ultrasound scanner developed by GE in China in 2002 at an ultra fraction of the costs of the ones GE has developed here in the United States.

Mr. Govindajaran’s book has been a success – it’s a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon bestseller – and I’d like to applaud him for bringing this topic in the forefront of business and economic discussions.

However, I have slight reservations about a few statements made in the book. I also do realize that these may not necessarily be Mr. Govindajaran’s intended thoughts given that most things nowadays are pretty much left wide open for interpretation. But here I go.

Firstly, as I stated above great ideas happen everywhere and Silicon Valley, where I’ve spent a good deal of my time here in the U.S. is not and most importantly should not be thought as the “exclusive domain” of innovation. Making such arguments only reinforces those false beliefs – and I find them just as dangerous as flaunting the term “American Exceptionalism” – though that’s for another conversation and blog.

Secondly, “Reverse Innovation” is NOT a recent phenomenon. It’s been happening for centuries! There’s a track history of developing nations greatly benefiting financially and economically from innovations that took root in developing and third world countries. It’s the social and legal infrastructure in the West that has enabled them to benefit most often at the detriment of the other countries – these are facts and we should paint the entire picture.

This debate about innovation reminds me of another, property rights, and arguments made by the economist Hernando De Soto in his book The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else, where he asserts that the lack of a legal structure, unlike in the West, in the allocation and tracking of property rights in developing nations impedes with their ability to attract capital. Effectively, it’s this absence of legal structure in the development and protection of intellectual property rights in developing and third world countries that’s always been the problem.

The fact is, Western nations have been inspired by great ideas that originated in other regions such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America but the problem, or missed opportunity rather, is that these regions for thousands of years evolved as communities where everyone benefited from the contribution of others; people benefited from the inventions of inventors just as they (the inventors) benefited from the crops from farmers and the meat from hunters. It’s not easy to change thousands of years worth of that approach to life into one a capitalistic model where one person innovates and charges everyone else in the community a fee to access the invention. Times and laws have long changed but cultural behaviors have not.

Let me give you some examples. Did you know that the first condom, pen, shoe with heels (there goes one for the ladies) were invented by Egyptians? Now, how many condom, pen, and shoe brands do you know are owned by an Egyptian person or company.

Anyone who’s lived or spent a considerable amount of time in a developing country knows this or at the very least has witnessed great ingenuity that regrettably is either not fostered or shipped away to a country in the West.

I traveled to Africa in May 2013 to get a better sense of how people were innovating and see the extent of Internet penetration in some of those countries. On my flight, I sat next to one of the most invigorating woman I’ve ever met – Urginia Warwick. She lives in London but travels to Cameroon frequently to oversee a school and program she put in place to train teachers on how to work with special aid students in their classrooms.In Cameroon, you see, there’s no such thing as a special aid teacher, at least not in public schools. But Ms. Warwick was donating her time and money, traveling from London to Cameroon, four times or more a year to create that opportunity. That is inspiring! During our conversation she told me of a young man she met in Bamenda, a city in the North West of Cameroon, who invented an incubator for premature babies that worked better than the ones they had in the city’s General Hospital. Amazing! Is that something not worth encouraging? I’d planned to take a trip with her to go meet him but unfortunately those plans were derailed. Had it not been for Ms Warwick I would have most likely never heard of that young man. And had it not been for me, you’d most likely never heard about him too. There are great things happening far from our eyes and ears, as well as those of the wonderful writers and journalists at Mashable and TechCrunch.

Innovation is a wonderful thing and we shouldn’t leave it to chance to discover great ideas and people to foster, nor should we reinforce false beliefs that certain regions or countries have a monopoly on the best innovations.

We should work collectively on finding and introducing a globally accessible and scalable solution that allows innovators anywhere in the world to thrive by leveraging each other’s experience, savoir-faire, and the interest of the general public.

 

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Photo source: Demotix.com

Over the past 10 years and due partly to the popularity of Facebook, there’s been a proliferation of social networks with each one struggling to differentiate itself from the others.The truth of the matter is very few of them have a clear differentiator.

As a consumer, I understand the question “How many more social networks do we need?” just like I often ask (with a ranting voice) “How many more singing and dancing reality TV shows do we need?” I also agree that we should be facilitating more offline activities and human interaction than encouraging people to live in virtual worlds.

So why the heck am I building another “social network”? #LetMeExplain.

First, when I look at the world I see land and water, not countries and borders (although the stamps on my passport often remind me otherwise). I see people, not races and tribes. I am totally blind when it comes to religion, and if I could, I’d learn every single language in the world.

In simpler terms, I see the world as one big room and we’re all in it. We’ve been conditioned to build barriers around ourselves and to think there’s a lot that’s different between us. We are so close, yet so far. This is a genuine problem and I think the best way to solve it given our current technologies is through social networks. Social networks bridge the gap between countries, people, and cultures. They can be a vehicle upon which a great amount of good can be accomplished as well as be a total waste of time.

Second, I wholeheartedly agree with the following thought by David Steindl-Rast during his TED Speech:

“If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. If you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re grateful, you act out of sense of enough and not out of sense of scarcity and you’re willing to share. If you’re grateful, you’re enjoying the differences between people and you’re respectful to everybody and that changes this power pyramid under which we live. It doesn’t make for equality but it makes for equal respect and that is the important thing.

The future of the world will be a network, not a pyramid, not a pyramid turned upside down. The revolution of which I’m speaking is a non-violent revolution and it’s so revolutionary that it even revolutionizes the concept of a revolution because the normal revolution is one where the power pyramid is turned upside down and those who were at the bottom are now at the top and they are doing exactly the same thing that the other ones did before.”

Our vision with Miigle is to build a social network that always inspires people to DREAM and DO amazing things. Actually, calling Miigle a social network is a bit of an oversimplification. Miigle is really social tool around which we are building a community. What the Miigle tool does is facilitate the discovery, connection, and engagement between ideas and people interested in fostering them.

Sure, we’ll probably never be as sexy as Instagram, Snapchat or Pinterest but unlike them we add a quantifiable value to your life which is that we allow you to create economic opportunities for yourself with your own ideas. It is my personal belief that there are few things more satisfying than to bring an idea to life either alone or by working with others, to follow its journey, and make a living doing something you love. That is the power of Miigle.

In the innovation space, there’s a multitude of crowdfunding platforms, which in their own rights provide great services to their members but is there not more to developing an idea than just the money? What about people who may have great ideas and lack the direction or emotional support to move forward? Shouldn’t they be valued in our society. Our social network is for them.

There are millions of brilliant people with great talent and knowledge but not enough money to be considered “accredited investors”, could they not provide any intellectual value to a project they found interesting? Not only do I think they could, but they already do so everyday but because their contribution is not monetary we don’t pay attention. Our social network is for them too.

Miigle is more than just a social network, we are a social innovation platform – a global ecosystem for people hungry to connect, collaborate, learn, and showcase their innovations.

We think everyone can have a role to play in the human innovation equation and we want to give them an opportunity to do so.

We don’t care if you’re working on your first startup or are a serial entrepreneur.

We don’t care if your bank account is not noteworthy or you’re the biggest angel investor in the world.

We don’t care if you live in Silicon Valley or Steelville, Missouri.

We don’t care if you went to Harvard or never went to college at all.

We only care that you’re passionate about seeing great products and services come to life, whether the founders are in the garage next door or a hut in the middle of nowhere. We boldly applaud the fact that you’re unique and embrace your diversity. Our social network is for you.

There are big structural changes happening in the world today, led by globalization, the Internet and overpopulation – an increasing number of people will willingly (or not) turn to their own ideas to make a living and create better economic opportunities for themselves and their communities. The good old formula of graduating college, finding a job, and retiring 40 years later with a 401K plan to live comfortably for the rest of our lives is fading quickly than seemingly most people are aware. Our social network is for those who are no longer asleep and are doing something about it.

We are Miigle, we are live, and we are hell-bent on making your lives easier.

Luc Berlin, CEO at Miigle.com

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Image source: Independent.co.uk

A repost of my blog post at http://blog.miigle.com 

It’s exciting times for us here at Miigle! After months of tirelessly working on our product we are finally ready to unveil the first phase to the public!

So what is Miigle?

Miigle is a social tool that makes it easier for innovators to showcase their projects or startups while automatically connecting them with people worldwide interested in contributing their knowledge, talent, money, and emotional support to see them succeed. 

To understand the power of Miigle, let’s take for example another project of ours:

Imagine building a web platform through which the public can motivate homeless people trying to turn their lives around. This is a great idea but you most likely haven’t got all the resources (knowledge, talent, or money) you may need to tackle them on your own. You need help!

Your challenge however is finding a quick and efficient way to connect with the right people interested and capable of providing that help.

That’s where Miigle comes into play!

Rather than spending all your time and energy pitching every friend, family member, and stranger you hope would be able to help, Miigle allows you to create a page for your project on our site and in seconds our technology does all the work of finding members who’d be interested in fostering you and your projects.

Instead of chasing after the help you need, we find and bring them to you. No legwork. No wasted time, money, and energy. 

Offline, this process could take you weeks, months, if not years. We make it happen in seconds! 

Our goal is to make innovating easier because the more we do it, the happier we all get. Just look at Sir Richard Branson!

Request an Invite to see Miigle work for you and help us grow our community by spreading the word!

Luc Berlin, CEO at Miigle.com

As I watched an amazingly boring Super Bowl XLVIII this evening, one commercial absolutely touched my heart. Sure, the genius of combining puppies with horses was an unavoidable cuteness overload but one subtle message I also got from Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” commercial was that when you create something that helps and brings joy to people, the day eventually comes, perhaps when you least expect it, when they return the favor.

Well done!

#BestBuds

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